Photo credit: photorun.net
Welcome to HOKA NAZ Elite Aliphine Tuliamuk!! Fans- get to know Aliphine by reading the following Q&A where Aliphine tells you about growing up in Kenya, how she started running, coming to the United States, her passion for public health, her goals for the future and more. Enjoy!
1) Aliphine- can you tell us a little bit about where you were born and what it was like growing up in such a small village?
I was born in a pretty small village–Posoy, Pokot county in the Rift Valley province. My village is so small that if I went home right now everyone would know I am home. Growing up there was something I will forever appreciate. At the time, school was a new thing there and we didn’t care much about it until years later. Our friends and I would all spend almost every night (including school nights) at our grandparent’s house where we would listen to story after story told by the grandparents. Early morning we all would go home where we had chores like fetching water from the river, cleaning dishes and milking sheep to make tea (English tea is a typical Kenyan breakfast) before we had to run real fast to get to school on time. Otherwise we would be punished and that wasn’t fun! On the weekends, we helped our parents teal land, gather firewood and do any other chores in the homestead.
2) And is is true that you are one of 32 siblings?! Tell us about having so many brothers and sisters. And have any of them come over the United States as well?
Yes I am one of 32 children!😊 Honestly, growing up in such a big family is a lot of fun. We always had ourselves to play with (not like we had much play time though) and it’s also very common with most families in my village because polygamy is acceptable. The 32 of us are, for instance, from four mothers. I enjoy the holidays when I am home more because we all get together and just catch up while encouraging each other and our younger siblings to work hard in school since we know they can go to college and have better opportunities. We all get along too, which makes it easy and fun to spend a few days together.
Currently, I have one full brother here, he is a freshman student-athlete at Liberty university.
3) There is a story that the person who got you into running was 2-time NYC Marathon Champion Tegla Loroupe. Is that true? And how did you two meet?
Not exactly. When I met Tegla Loroupe, I was on my way to represent my county in a track meet so I was already running. There were so many of us on the team but I was running the 10,000m and was the youngest and the champion from the county. I however didn’t have racing shoes, but it wasn’t a big deal since many of us didn’t have shoes anyways. One of my uncles, Geoffrey Ptormos, knew Tegla and was the one who brought her to meet us. I don’t remember if he asked for shoes on my behalf or not but later on that day I received my first ever flats and it inspired me. Up until then, I had heard of Tegla being an awesome runner but hadn’t met her yet. She was on her way to the 2000 Olympics and she instantly became a role model and an inspiration to me. I wanted to be like her some day, a goal I am still working on.
4) You competed at the World Junior Cross Country Championships when you were in high school but then got a little bit burned out on the sport. Did you think were done running? And then when did you decide to come to the U.S. to run in college?
I didn’t get burnt out actually; I went to a high school where academic performance was the highest focus and not sports. I ran until my junior year but because I wasn’t training much I automatically lost my fitness and got slower. I stopped running as a senior to focus all my time on school knowing that I would get back to running after I graduated, though seeking a scholarship wasn’t part of the plan. During the last semester of my senior year, my uncle Geoffrey (same one who got me in touch with Tegla) suggested that if I got good grades I would be able to pursue an athletic scholarship at one of the U.S. universities. Right after high school I started training again and applied for U.S. colleges and it wasn’t hard to get [a scholarship] since I had run real well as a freshman and represented Kenya in the World XC Junior Championships.
5) You transferred from Iowa State to Wichita State where you went on to have a ton of success. What was it about the culture at Wichita State that allowed you to thrive as a student athlete?
When I transferred to Wichita State University I was already done with being a confused college kid.😂 I had adopted to the new culture and knew that I wanted to pursue my degree in the health care field while getting good fitness and running well. It was at Wichita State that I really embraced the teamwork mentality. I realized that I do thrive more if I did it for my team because they were also doing it for me. My coaches were also very cool and understood my needs like enjoying workouts where guys were pacing me; this is funny because my coach was constantly looking for guys on the team that could run with me and assured them that their pride was safe.😊 I miss those days!
6) Your major at Wichita State was Public Health Science. Why did you pick that major and why is it so important to you?
I wanted to major in nursing, it’s the main reason I transferred to Wichita State University. However, I quickly realized that I wasn’t going to be able to handle the tough nursing program while still running well, and I didn’t want to give up running like I did in high school. Public Health was the closest thing I could major in and still get some good knowledge on health care.
A health care degree was, and still is, important to me because people in my village do not have a reliable access to health care. It’s definitely better now but we still have a long way to go. When I was growing up, I lost two of my brothers due to inefficient health care; watching my mother cry was unbearable and heart-breaking. I didn’t want that to happen to anyone else. I wanted to do my part in making a difference in the community by focusing my education on health care; and still plan on getting that nursing degree, more likely when I am done with competitive running.
7) You became a United States Citizen in 2016 and won your first National Title very soon after at the USATF 25k Championships at the Fifth Third River Bank Run. In the post-race interview you talked about how important it was to you to represent the U.S. What is your favorite thing about being American?
America has afforded me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. If anyone would have told me that I would be the person I am today (when I was growing up, enjoying those stories and not caring much about education) I would have called them crazy! My favorite thing about being an American so far is winning a national championship then getting the American flag draped on me. It’s an unbelievable emotion that I can’t quite express in words. It was such an honor to represent America at last year’s World XC Championships because it was an opportunity for me to show my appreciation and respect to this beautiful nation.
8) You have won seven National Championships on the Roads at everything from the 5k to the 25k. Why do you like road racing so much?
I like the road races so much because they bring the entire running community together. I love that I get to share the same course with so many runners who aren’t necessarily elites and have their own stories to tell on how running has inspired/helped them overcome difficulties.
And let’s be honest here, most of those road racing organizations are real cool. I mean they give the elite athletes a royal welcome the entire time. I love being picked up/dropped off at the airport, and getting to eat some of the best food in town while mingling with the amazing volunteers and telling them how grateful we runners are that they choose to help out.😂😊
9) Maybe your best PR is your 1:09 half marathon. What’s your advice to anyone racing a half marathon?
I would advise them to focus their training on longer workouts like tempos but start conservative then unleash it toward the end.
If you are a beginner–take it easy, start with a lower weekly mileage and then build it up. Don’t rush to get too fit too quick as that could lead to injuries.
Do aerobic long runs that are longer than 13 miles.
Also–listen to your body, take a day off if you need to, let your body rest and fuel your body properly.
10) Finally, you are now a member of HOKA NAZ Elite! Besides being able to wear the awesome HOKA shoes and gear, what are you most looking forward to about being on the team? And what are your biggest goals for the next couple of years?
I am looking forward to that teamwork mentality that I had at Wichita State. I am looking forward to running with the team everyday and letting them push me when I am not feeling like it. I am looking forward to having some of the guys swallow their pride and pace us the ladies lol 😂…kidding and dreaming here😊
My Ultimate goal is to make the 2020 US Olympic team and represent team USA–hopefully in the marathon. Yes, I need to work on the marathon. In the meantime, I also want to win as many U.S. Championships as I can, run PRs in the half and full marathon, and also run some good times on the track when the opportunity comes. I definitely also want to do very well in the World Major Marathons and be on the podium.
Thanks so much for the time Aliphine and thanks for sharing your story!